Corey Robin is one of the better translators of the movement. It would confound conservatives and libertarians to learn that socialism is about freedom and they’re the ones selling being yoked to and reliant upon systems that actually consider your needs last.
I personally like the definition that freedom is when if you lose your job your kid doesn’t lose their health insurance over the conservative version of freedom which so often means freedom for some to do what they please and freedom for others to work for less, to starve, to suffer at the whim of the first guy.
Under capitalism, we’re forced to enter the market just to live. The libertarian sees the market as synonymous with freedom. But socialists hear “the market” and think of the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy. Under capitalism, we’re forced to submit to the boss. Terrified of getting on his bad side, we bow and scrape, flatter and flirt, or worse — just to get that raise or make sure we don’t get fired.
The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination.
As FDR declared in the Second Bill of Rights “[N]ecessitous men are not free men.” Socialism rose and waned based on the common conception of how fair our society was. As inequality reaches levels not seen since the Gilded Age, that teeth grinding and grumbling over how much the 1% have and how much of a struggle the working class are enduring is fueling this new generation of economic warriors who are just looking to use our wealth to relieve some of the rampant anxiety Americans are feeling.
Still, today’s socialism is just getting started. It took Lincoln a decade — plus a civil war, and the decision of black slaves to defy their masters, rushing to join advancing Union troops — to come to the position that free labor meant immediate abolition.
In magazines and on websites, in reading groups and party chapters, socialists are debating the next steps: state ownership of certain industries, worker councils and economic cooperatives, sovereign wealth funds. Once upon a time, such conversations were the subject of academic satire and science fiction. Now they’re getting out the vote and driving campaigns. It’s too soon to tell whether they’ll spill over into Congress, but events have a way of converting barroom chatter into legislative debate.